Finishing off the most recent phase of our ongoing terrace garden project in Bellevue has provided us with the opportunity of using some choice ground covers.
Pratia angulata. I have been wanting to use this for a while, but for some reason I have been unable to find it in my usual outlets. Like many things, plants seem to come and go in trends and fashions as now I see it everywhere. It is great for colonizing a sloped area and holds the soil together nicely though in a sunny location it can be a little vigorous. We planted it among some Fuchsia magellanica ‘Aurea’. It does compete with the Fuchsia, but not to its detriment and it is easily controlled if it does get a little over exuberant. If we feel it is getting away from us we simply pull it out by the hand full and let it regrow which it does quickly from the spreading roots.
On the subject of “plant fashions”, another ground cover I liked very much – but now seems to have disappeared form the suppliers listings – Ellisiophyllum pinnatum. I was introduced to this plant about 5 years ago by a helpful nursery retailer I use often. Knowing little about the plant I was unwilling to “unleash” it without knowing more of its tendencies. I purchased half a flat or so – as a test. Initially it settled in well and seemed to play nicely with its other friends in the lightly shaded woodland garden. I purchased more – lots more and I was now seeing it everywhere for sale. Planting it in seemingly perfect conditions, organic rich soil with the correct lighting and watering I hoped it would thrive. It didn’t! Within a year I was not seeing it for sale anywhere at all so presumably other gardeners were having mixed success too.
I wish more growers would do their own testing on “new” plants before propagating them and releasing them en-mass to the public, but I realize they are under pressure to meet the market demands for a new product and don’t want to miss the opportunity.
Cymbalaria muralis (Kenilworth Ivy)
Probably one of the best behaved ground covers that I can think of. In the right circumstances it can be vigorous, but it is very easily controlled and grows back, almost within seconds. Evergreen too! at least it is here on Vashon Island where recently we’ve experienced a few consecutive nights of 25 degrees of frost. Extremely useful for awkwardly sloping dry shade too where, much less vigorous it colonizes very steadily.
At the other end of the scale, we have used much Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ and whilst I would not categorize it as one of my favorite plants in any conventional sense – it is extremely useful and predictable in its performance as instant screening. We sometimes use it as temporary screening (10 years temporary) whilst other more desirable plants colonize and fill in.
I am experimenting this year at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2016 with some alternatives.
Picea abies ‘Cupressina’ will I think do just as good a job and certainly it has a more interesting structure. Please come along and check out my first venture into the Garden Show arena. The garden title is “A Room With A Garden View”.
Small conifers have always been a favorite of English Landscapes and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ is no exception; I have planted them in three different installations this year. They have a fascinating shape and structure to them and can be used in locations where other more vigorous conifers could become problematic. I anticipate that other than the very occasional light and selective clipping to enhance shape – they will require no other maintenance.
A real winner!